10th September issue

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Nobody pretends that tackling gang culture is easy. Each new gang-related attack is reported as a sign that Britain’s young people are turning ghoulish overnight. Politicians flounder in rushing to proclaim the best way to tackle it: lock ’em up, deport all those you can, or hug a hoodie?

There are clues in this fortnight’s issue that the best way to take the weight out of the mob is to take the lost potential of its individuals to heart.

Professor David Clark comes across evidence relating to the most successful way of helping people towards recovery, citing ‘the ability to build up respectful relationships with service users, in which the worker has a genuine interest in the person, sees them as an individual, and takes them and their experiences seriously’ (Background Briefing, page 17). Prof Clark goes on to say: ‘only in this relationship could trust be established’.

If the reactions of the young people at Brinsford to being given the chance to express themselves through creative performance (cover story) is anything to go by, the evidence Prof Clark mentions can surely apply to young people caught up within the criminal justice system. Show an interest in their happiness, and give them a chance to explore their creativity and communicate in a familiar language, and things start happening: they tune in, start listening, start realising that there might be things in that previously uncontemplated territory – mainstream society – that might have something to offer them. Maybe they might just realise that people can gang together for all sorts of positive reasons, apart from drugs and violence.

Peter Martin reminds us that most people will develop their potential in direct correlation to whether their basic needs are met (page 10). It’s obvious where that leaves children with a poor start in life, where drugs and alcohol have always been part of their scenery. The efforts of innovative Brinsford staff (and also at Weatherby, page 8) are a commendable example of introducing a life away from the gang.

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